Cash Crops for Small Farms: Rabbit Manure
Family farmers, homesteaders, and even suburbanites can earn extra money with packaged rabbit manure.
Rabbit manure is considered to be one of the best manures for gardens.
It has one of the highest levels of nitrogen of any animal manure (typical N-P-K ratio: 2.4 – 1.4 – .60), yet it can be applied directly to plants without the need for aging or composting to prevent it from burning the roots.
Rabbit manure, like all animal manures, is also high in organic matter, which improves soil structure and drainage and provides food for earthworms and other beneficial animals.
It is dry and almost odorless, so it is pleasant to store and handle, and it packages easily in plastic bags, or can be sold (less profitably) by the truckload.
Buyers include gardeners, nurseries, earthworm farmers, and more. Now is a particularly good time to get into the business. Thanks to the economic crisis, there has been a surge in home vegetable gardening. Many rabbit farmers are able to market their manure with nothing more than a sign by the road.
Rabbit manure is an especially good source of income for small farmers because it combines easily with several other forms of income.
Although it is possible to keep rabbits exclusively for manure, very few farmers actually do.
In addition to producing manure, rabbits also produce a delicious all-white meat that is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol.
Rabbit fur is also valued for its softness and warmth, and the hair of the Angora breed is spun like wool.
Finally, rabbits can also be raised for the pet trade, although this is better for relatively small rabbit operations, as the young rabbits should ideally be well-socialized before being sold.
Not only do rabbits produce multiple sources of income, they also combine well with other sources of income, including earthworms, chickens, and pigs.
Rabbits and Worms
Although some rabbit manure farmers simply pile their manure somewhere and let it sit for about six weeks to compost, it is possible to speed the process up and gain another stream of income by using earthworms to do the composting for you.
If you have wire bottomed cages, simply place a worm bin under the rabbits' cages and allow the droppings and urine to fall directly into the worm bin. Otherwise, keep the bin nearby to shovel droppings and bedding into when cleaning cages.
The worms will turn the manure into a delightful, rich compost, and can be harvested along with the manure to sell to fishermen, gardeners, pet stores, and other buyers. Worm castings also fetch a high price from gardeners.
Rabbits, Chickens, and Pigs
Other farmers, including sustainable agriculture guru Joel Salatin, keep rabbit cages in chicken coops and pig barns.
This works best with deep bedding systems for chickens and hogs. Rabbit urine and droppings fall to the floor , where they mix with the bedding materials of the chickens or hogs. Scatter treats such as handfuls of grain over the bedding and the chickens and pigs with turn over and aerate the bedding with their scratching and rooting action, producing beautiful compost within a few weeks and keeping the whole system virtually odor free.
In addition to the compost, this system produces high quality meat and/or eggs to sell.
Some farmers also combine rabbits with aquaculture systems - securely suspending wire bottomed rabbit cages over fish ponds and using the rabbit manure, which is high in protein, to feed the fish - but this system does not produce rabbit manure for sale.
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